08/11/2012

Farmers Missing Out On Health Care - Minister

Edwin Poots has warned that Northern Ireland’s farmers may be missing out on vital health service provision.

The Health Minister was speaking at the launch of the Farm Families Health Checks Programme with Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill.

"There is a perception that farming is an idyllic life – out in the fresh air and the green open countryside," he said.

"But the reality is that some farmers are at risk of poor health due to a number of factors including isolation and stress, financial worries and an increased risk of accidents.

"Evidence shows that farmers in general are under-users of health service provision. This reluctance may be due to a range of factors including the solitary nature of their work; the demands of long working hours and the financial pressures of running a business in difficult economic times."

He said that many farmers live some distance from health care services and that the new programme was intended to "bring care closer to farmers and their families".

The Programme is a joint initiative between the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) and the Public Health agency (PHA).

It will see a mobile unit visit local farmers’ markets and rural community events to offer on-the-spot health checks like blood pressure monitoring, BMI, cholesterol check and diabetic screening.

Individual lifestyle advice will also be given.

Michelle O’Neill said: "Since the programme’s introduction a few months ago almost 1,000 people have been seen at both Farmers Marts and community events in the north. This clearly demonstrates that the farming community has an interest in finding out about healthy lifestyles and maintaining good physical and mental health. It is evident that there is a need for this type of initiative, where farmers can access healthcare advice in a place, and at a time, that is convenient to them."

(IT/GK)

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